A Radio Show That Combines Gardening and Rock & Roll
Keep It Rural
Rock Garden Tour promises less talk, and more witty banter about gardening. That might mean discussing the ins and outs of potato farming for an hour. It might also mean producing an entire show about Jello.
Always Leave Them Wanting Less
The show has been on the air in one format or another since the spring of 2000, and is currently in its fifth season on SDPB.
While other shows tell stories that seem too good to be true, Rock Garden Tour shares the kinds of stories that are too bad to be false. It is considered by some to be the most interesting show of its kind in South Dakota. It almost certainly features the most original songs about Murdo.
It’s a safe space for the discussion of important topics, like weed board politics and tavern recipes. It’s a respectful forum for debating controversial issues, like urban chicken housing in rural South Dakota. It’s a celebration of the avant-gardeners: those that work the land, those that play free-range rock and roll, and those that live in South Dakota (more or less).
The show also features talented guests like Jami Lynn, Pleasure Horse, Altman Studeny, Brian Bieber, Boyd Bristow and Kenny Putnam.
Raised on Sweet Corn and Sour Luck
Writer and producer of the show, Ted Heeren, known as Flowerman, grew up on his family’s farm just outside of Beresford, South Dakota at a place the locals know as Norway Center. After completing his studies in Broadcast Journalism and Horticulture at the land grant university, Ted applied the strong work ethic and planting tips he learned on the farm to starting an advertising agency, Fresh Produce, and a late night public radio show.
Tater Tot Hot Dish and a Wooden Spoon
Sound Effects Coordinator, Tom Hurlbert, otherwise known as Oil Can, grew up in the Hub City of Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he was raised to appreciate the importance of strong communities and the song catalog of George Jones. He is the co-founder and a principal architect at CO-OP, an architecture firm with offices in the Queen City and the Hub City.
Godfather of the Rowena Polo Club
Jim Groth, original member of the Rock Garden Tour Family Band, has been a professional musician since the 1960s. So far, he is the only member of the Rock Garden Tour Family Band to be inducted into the South Dakota Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his work in Wonderband, The Pilgrims, and The Starfires. There was also that set he played with Strawberry Alarm Clock back in the 60’s. Jim is Ted’s father-in-law.
The Last of the Old Time Gangs
Piano player, Christopher Vondracek teaches college English in Minnesota and is trying to publish a book sorta about Lawrence Welk. Christopher is Ted’s cousin, and Leo’s brother.
Bass player, Leo Vondracek is working at a sandwich shop in Minneapolis and pursuing a music career. Leo is Ted’s cousin, and Christopher’s brother.
Tour Manager, Merch Tent Superviser, Booking Director, and former intern, Jackelyn Lozano has the most job titles on the crew. She even has a business card.
News from Pierre
Tommy McGill, News from Pierre, first called the show five years ago with breaking news about a large power outage caused by bull snakes in Pierre, SD. He’s been on the show ever since. News is Ted, Christopher, and Leo’s Uncle.
Rock Garden Tour has played in front of everyone from the Governor of South Dakota to a pet miniature donkey. Their performance resume includes shows at Mount Rushmore, Charlie Utter Theater in Deadwood, Franklin Hotel in Deadwood, Orpheum Theater in Sioux Falls, Matthews Opera House in Spearfish, South Dakota Festival of Books, Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Barn in rural Dell Rapids, South Dakotans for the Arts Conference in Pierre, South Dakota Extension Leaders State Convention in Sioux Falls, Bernie Hunhoff’s Barn in Utica, OTA Conference in Sioux Falls, Freeman Academy Benefits Auction in Freeman, the Grand Opening of the Volga Performing Arts Center, the parking lot of Al’s I-90 in Plankinton, and many more. Over the course of the show’s 15 year history they’ve produced 3 television specials and hundreds of radio shows and podcasts.
North 40 Countdown
Known for classic rock parodies like “Come Bale Some Hay”, “Highway to Zell” and “Under Presho”, the Rock Garden Tour Family Band also writes and performs original songs, like the tunes posted below. Our biggest hit is that one about Murdo. It charted on the North 40 Countdown for several weeks in 2008.
Some Bits and Pieces of a Newspaper Interview with Ted – as seen in the Beresford Republic
How did it begin?
It’s just an idea I had in college, to do a show that combined some of my interests. It started off as more of a joke really, and I’m not sure that it has ever grown beyond that.
What was your inspiration?
Norway Center, SD
Purpose or message?
I’m racking my brains… There is a purpose or a message but I’m so close to it that it’s hard to articulate. Our opening song closes with the line, “If we can keep this avant-garden alive through one more winter, we’re not going to save the world but we might salvage Pumpkin Center.” Our general purpose is probably buried somewhere inside of that line.
Why is “keeping it rural” close to your heart?
I was lucky to grow up in a loving home. “Keep it rural” is a celebration of that love. Home was always a good place for me to be. Not everybody gets to have that experience. The farm fed the family so it was important. The garden gave us some potatoes and frozen corn during the winter so it was important. But beyond utility, there was something bigger happening in the strawberry patch and the bean field. It was where we connected to the land, in a very honest and authentic way. And the land is what gives our culture a unique flavor. This seems important to me, so I do the show. It’s my strawberry patch.
How did the “growing up years” lead you to your goal?
For some people, fun is a byproduct of good work. For me, it might be the other way around. Fun is the goal, and as I reflect on my “growing up years” in Beresford and Norway Center it seems like it has always been that way. When you’re a small time radio producer, just getting through an episode is a victory. Not getting kicked off the air, that’s a major goal of the show.
What about the tour is most rewarding?
I appreciate the opportunity to feature talented regional artists. Other than that, the most rewarding thing about it is that Mom and Dad seem to like it.
We’ll See You At Pumpkin Center
Listen to the Rock Garden Tour, the last Saturday of every month at 8 pm on SDPB Radio, and keep a look out for a live performance in your area. Until then, keep it rural, don’t overwater, and we’ll see you at Pumpkin Center.